• Review: Thrustmaster Pendular Rudder System

    Review: Thrustmaster Pendular Rudder System

    By Tony Vallillo

    Oh, The Rudder. That little understood and not-always-mastered flight control - the poor stepchild of the triad of aileron, elevator and rudder, named embarrassingly enough after the primary control of... a BOAT! Oh, the lack of dignity and respect! At least in the modern era.

    In the beginning it was not so. All early bird pilots knew the rudder well, and were masters of its proper manipulation. They had to be, or they died early; because in those antediluvian days of TLAR (that looks about right) aeronautical design, airplanes were prone to all sorts of deadly mischief if the rudder was improperly used. Coordinated flight was both essential to performance and difficult to maintain in those old underpowered taildraggers of the so-called Golden Age of flight.

    Thrustmaster Rudders
    The pedal portion of the TPR as it comes out of the box

    By the 1950's, when the CAA became the FAA, and Piper and Cessna were beginning to rule the world of general aviation, the powers that be decreed that airplanes, particularly small airplanes, were to be made safer by design. This was accomplished through such innovations as tricycle landing gear and aeronautical designs that were more inherently stable, particularly in the yaw axis. Over time, Cessnas and Pipers became much less prone to spinning, and much more tolerant of sloppy flight control or the total lack thereof, especially with the rudder. In fact, early in the post war era, a plane was designed and put into production that had no rudder controls in the cockpit at all - the Ercoupe, which featured an interlinked control system that tied the rudder surfaces (the Ercoupe had multiple rudders, like a miniature Constellation) to the aileron axis of the control stick in such a way as to always feed in the correct amount and direction of rudder surface travel when the stick was moved from side to side.

    Spins were taken off the menu by the FAA's tactic of avoiding them altogether by avoiding stalls as much as possible. Today the only civilian pilots who get spin training (other than those who search it out, mostly because they want to fly aerobatics) are flight instructor candidates, and theirs is very rudimentary. The aviation world has become somewhat acclimated to under-control in the yaw axis, a bit like the way my hearing has become dulled by years of jet noise.

    So what should the rudder be used for today? Well, in all prop airplanes the rudder comes into play at high power settings due to a confluence of forces often known in the vernacular as P factor (although real P factor is only one of the forces). Also, all airplanes suffer from adverse yaw, which is an artifact of aileron displacement and results in a slight yaw against the intended direction of turn when a roll input is made. In addition, swept wing airplanes (and, some Beech Bonanzas) exhibit a tendency to yaw back and forth called Dutch Roll. And all multi-engine airplanes need a good deal of footwork with an engine out. Finally, there is always the crosswind situation to be dealt with both on takeoff and landing.

    Thrustmaster Rudders
    The Yaw Damper switches on the 767 overhead panel

    Jets are a bit different. Thanks to modern technology, jet airplanes don't need rudder inputs except for crosswinds and engine out situations. They have a system called the Yaw Damper to handle turn coordination and Dutch Roll damping. Modern Yaw Dampers can even handle most of the yaw in an engine out situation. Small planes, though, have to deal with all of the above tendencies, and it is all done by the pilot with his or her feet; rudder control has been done with the feet almost from the very beginning, first with a bar hinged in the middle that could be pushed back and forth, and eventually through two pedals that work in opposition to each other. Again, only the Ercoupe was different.


    2 Comments
    1. flapman's Avatar
      flapman -
      Thank you for the review. I am seriously considering these as I have just bought a Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS
    1. Sporg9's Avatar
      Sporg9 -
      I saw your review recommend on the Thrustmaster Facebook page.
      However, have you checked out pedals in the same price range?
      There are quite a few, and I think they are better quality than even these Thrustmaster pedals.
      Look for MFG Crosswind (slightly cheaper), Slaw (same price but wastly better), Baur (if you can get these, otherwise check out VirPil in the future).
      I think you will find that there are a few quality offerings out there.
      In this price segment Thrustmaster faces fiercer competition than one might be aware of.
      Only disadvantage is that these pedals are from smaller manufacturers (sometimes single person), so might involve some lead time before you can get them, if they are at all available. I think the MFG are the most available ones for now.
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